Mongo up, Cannonball Down: Shepherd Mountain Bike Park is a Midwest Treasure

Shots by Bob Robinson unless of course or else pointed out.

Opening day, yahoo! April 3rd, 2021, Ironton, Missouri, formally declared Shepherd Mountain Bicycle Park (SMBP) “Open for business.” 

Cyclists from a 5-state space rolled their bikes onto Mongo’s cargo bed for an adventurous shuttle up the mountainside, giddy with pleasure at being the initially to go away knobby tracks on the hardest, baddest gravity trails in the area.

Five difficult, reason-built, downhill-only trails on the scale of singletrack generally found in the continent’s northwestern locations can now be skilled right below in the “Show Me Point out.”

Every single accomplishment story has its “eureka” second, and SMBP’s arrived June of 2019, on the patio of the Fort Davidson Café. Klinton Silvey was owning lunch with associates of Ironton’s Chamber of Commerce. He took place to glance up at a wooded mountain and casually contemplated aloud how nice it would be to construct downhill mountain bicycle trails on the steep hillside. A commerce member requested if he understood anything at all about what it would just take to build them? Silvey replied he could be able to support them out.   

Might be capable to assist them out, was a gross understatement. Silvey is a member of Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) Gravity, a 501c3 non-profit organization, committed to establishing gravity-fed mountain bicycle trails and household-welcoming bicycle skills parks throughout Missouri. He shared the lunch conversation with fellow GORC Gravity associates Dave Schulz and Steve Friedman. Together they offered a formal proposal for setting up Shepherd Mountain Bike Park to the Iron County Financial Partnership, and as they say, “the rest is background.”

Digging in

Photo courtesy of Jagged Axe / Kevin Simpers

SMBP would be a excellent purpose design to other communities that might contemplate building a mountain bicycle park. Mayor Bob Lourwood, Chuck Correll (Arcadia Valley Tourism Committee chairman), and other local community leaders recognized the park’s possible to encourage the spot economic climate and focused themselves to making the task a achievement. Even just before the gates opened, their attempts have been paying out dividends. Assets values close to the bicycle park had been currently on the rise, according to town officials.

With the group leaders effectively soliciting resources, Silvey and Schulz continuing in volunteer advisory roles, all that was missing to initiate the project was finding the proper design crew to carry out the program. Enter Jagged Axe Trail Layout.

In an workout to decide on the acceptable firm to develop the trail procedure, GORC Gravity members stated their favored downhill trails. When the tabulations were done, it turned out Jagged Axe experienced created the the vast majority of the group’s “fab five” trails. 

Silvey discussed that everyone appreciated how Jagged Axe’s proprietor, Alex Scott, uncovered a way down hillsides that produced riders really feel like they are experiencing the legitimate mountain, with out substantial bench chopping and alteration of the environment. The team considered Jagged Axe could generate the uncooked, natural, complex, steep downhills that space cyclists currently had to journey hundreds of miles to practical experience. It also aided that in the mountain biking planet, Jagged Axe was now regarded for supplying just about every path a exceptional taste.

With the mountain’s six hundred toes of elevation, Silvey was also not fascinated in extending the mileage just to construct move trails. The Ozark Trail is only thirty minutes away, and with the one-hundred-in addition miles of cross-nation trails in the close by St. Louis location, there is a great deal of that design and style of path readily available. 

With all the items now in area, Jagged Axe established to operate. 

There is a prevalent phrase used when developing mountain bicycle trails that “it will take a village.” The product or service of this village’s energy was so thriving that when the crew from North America’s premier enduro sequence, Massive Mountain Enduro (BME), visited the website in the slide of 2020, they have been impressed enough to make SMBP the opening race for the 2021 series on Might 2. Really great, eh?

If you dig it, they will trip

On the net shuttle passes for SMBP’s opening weekend marketed out inside the initial sixty seconds. Those not able to snag a move to hitch a ride in the back of the 6-wheel-travel former Missouri National Guard Medium Tactical Car or truck, affectionately named Mongo, or on a person of the Humvee-pulled trailers, received to extend their legs on a “warmup ride” climbing the two-plus mile Coolio’s Climb. 

On opening working day, Coolio was continue to a work in progress and a small chunky in spots. It did get less difficult immediately after my very first experience up, as I grew to become familiar with the tough spots on the other hand, by my fifth vacation up, it started to don on me.

(Be aware: I’m not complaining. I value the mega volunteer several hours Schulz place into building the return route. He lived on the mountain in a camper for 8 months laboring every day to construct the two-additionally-mile trail. “Clap, clap, clap,” I applaud your dedication.) 

No matter if you compensated in dollars or sweat, all riders land atop the mountain at The Hub, an elevated filth launch pad for all trails. Congregating at this perch with your cycling buds when straddling the saddle of your trusty experience, it is determination time. Which line to get? 

Will it be Trolley Observe?

Do not let the inexperienced score fool you. As with daily life in common, all things are relative. Of course, in contrast to the other 4 trails, this is a lot easier. Even so, this is not the environmentally friendly path your dad rode.

All riders will get pleasure from the sweet stream on this 1.7-mile run, and the the natural way integrated rock armory is not techie more than enough to trigger issues. Even so, the crux, for some, could be the significant-banked, earthen berms. The turns are large and clean, but the accrued velocity from the steep descent could be a obstacle for a accurate starter.

Or Aspect 26?

This 1.1-mile journey bumps the skill stage demands up a notch. The berms are a tiny tighter, and the speeds ramp up with the steeper grades. There are also included complex needs like tabletops and picket options. But all in all, it is a easy development from Trolley Track.

Probably Mineshaft?

The .7-mile route was a crowd beloved on opening working day. Subsequent the development, it is even steeper and more rapidly than the previously stated, lesser-rated, trails. There are far more rocky technological functions, but the gaps concerning stay pedally. It resembles the black diamond trails nevertheless, Mineshaft is however somewhat groomed, and does not have the significant jumps. Riders will obtain this path welcome training for the black diamonds for the reason that even mere mortals ought to be equipped to manage this path.

Or should it be Powder Keg?

The .8-mile trail earns its black diamond ranking. This and Cannon Ball demonstrate Jagged Axe’s capacity to “keep it all-natural,” allowing for riders an up close and own expertise with the true mountain. The journey concerning capabilities is consultant of the rake and experience paths we rode in the early several years of mountain biking, letting the rocks lay the place they lie. This path also has a rad picket corkscrew. Heads up for the off-camber rock gardens and drops near the bottom. Some riders have been caught off guard on opening working day.  

And then there is Cannon Ball.

You would feel a double black diamond rating would put together riders for a run. But no, this .6-mile trail is super steep, top to base. Riders will drop count of the variety of rock options, necessary rock rolls, huge rock drops, and just nuts crazy rock gardens. This path is bare-bones au naturel.  

As you around the conclude of this adrenaline rockfest thrill journey, really do not make the boo boo one rider did on opening day. Mistaking The Cannon for a teeter-totter element, she slowly and gradually rolled to, and then off, the close of the ramp. I’m content to report, she did not undergo critical accidents. 

The Cannon.

Extra to come

Development of two more trails down the backside of the mountain ended up around completion on opening working day. These trails will be open in time to be section of the May perhaps 2 BME race. Their addition bumps full mileage at the park to about ten miles, generating it effectively worth the generate.

“Knock, knock!” that is chance knocking on the door for some entrepreneur reading through this piece who is wanting for a locale to open up a new bicycle shop.

Mayor Lourwood and the community of Ironton is actively soliciting funding for SMBP Period II. The Mayor spelled out how the over-all SMBP undertaking is similar to creating an amusement park. Their group made the decision to assemble the downhill trails in Section I, like an amusement park would make a roller coaster very first, to get everyone’s attention and then stick to up with the a lot more loved ones-oriented rides.

Period II will incorporate accurate inexperienced trails and progressively challenging blue routes the full relatives can enjoy. It will also consist of capabilities personalized to the wants of cyclists seeking to improve their bicycle dealing with skills. 

A campground will be created for people trying to get a real out of doors working experience. There are trails prepared to link park areas and Ironton’s downtown.

Visitors ought to begin their take a look at at The Wheelhouse, found in downtown Ironton, at the corner of Russell Road and Freeway 21. This is household foundation for shuttle tickets, bike rentals, and other details involved with the bike park and encompassing area. At the moment, shuttle support is limited to weekends, but they prepare to function day-to-day all through the summer months months.

Further than the bicycle park

If you are searching for a crack from the tough ‘n’ tumble trails at SMBP, choose a day or two off to test out other MTB attractions in the location. 

A shorter eighteen-mile push via the scenic Ozark Mountains will consider you to St. Joe Point out Park, near Farmington. The park delivers eleven miles of old-college singletrack that is a flashback to trails of the previous: just a sweet slim pathway weaving in and about the trees, absolutely nothing technical, and with only 6 hundred ft of elevation. 

Or travel on equally scenic state roads, twenty-5 miles northwest to attain one more aged-faculty MTB trail at Council Bluff Lake. This twelve-mile trail circles the lake, providing pristine views of fishing lovers plying their competencies to entice in a stringer of largemouth bass stocked in the lake.

Cyclists can established up dwelling foundation at the lake’s campground and enterprise out for extra extended biking on the connecting Ozark Path. The Ozark Path will sooner or later link up with the Ozark Highland Trail to offer 7 hundred miles of continuous mountaineering (the OHT does not permit bicycles at this time), from Arkansas’ Lake Fort Smith State Park all the way to St. Louis, Missouri.

The addition of the Shepherd Mountain Bicycle Park helps make the Ironton place a trip vacation spot for the full household.